Westwood keeps banging on that major door

When Lee Westwood headed to the scoring hut to sign off on

another close call in a major championship, he got a bit of advice

from someone who’s done that many times.

Phil Mickelson was once known as the best player without a major

title on his resume. Now, he’s got four of them – and he’s sure

Westwood will win one, too.

“I’ve been in that position, and it sucks,” Mickelson said.

“But I also told him he is playing some of the best golf of

anybody in the world, he’s an incredible player and I pull for him.

I want him to win his first major soon, because he is that kind of

talent, that type of player and a quality guy.”

Westwood was runner-up to Mickelson at the Masters on Sunday,

after settling for third-place finishes at the previous two majors.

The Englishman went into the final round with a one-stroke lead,

but a mediocre front side held him to a 1-under 71 as Mickelson

pulled away for a three-stroke win.

What’s next?

More of the same as Westwood doesn’t plan any changes to his

game.

“You can’t get lured into the thought that you have to do

something drastic,” Westwood said. “I just have to keep working

on what I’m working on. … The law of averages says the door is

going to open one day.”

He was third in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the

tournament that Tiger Woods won on a shredded knee, and third again

at the last two majors of 2009. Westwood just missed out on the

British Open playoff between Stewart Cink and Tom Watson and

finished behind Y.E. Yang and Woods at the PGA Championship.

Now, Westwood has his best showing yet in a major.

“The closer I get to winning these major championships, the

more I want the next one to come around,” he said. “Obviously,

when you’ve come close, there’s a tinge of disappointment straight

off. I was disappointed walking up to the last green, obviously.

But once that’s passed, I didn’t do too much wrong today. I can

walk away with a lot of positive thoughts and memories from this

Masters.”

Westwood’s biggest miscues came on the front side. He hooked his

opening tee shot into the trees and wound up taking bogey. He made

another at the fourth, then three-putted at No. 9 to make the turn

with a 1-over 37 – his worst showing of the week on the front side.

The first three days, he was a cumulative 8 under on that stretch

of the course.

“I didn’t get off to a fast start like I would have wished

today, being one shot in the lead,” Westwood said. “If I got to 2

or 3 under through seven or eight holes, and maybe it would have

been a different result. But I didn’t drive the ball quite as well

over the first few holes.”

His game came around on the back side. Westwood got safely

through Amen Corner and made a birdie at the par-5 13th. But he

failed to take advantage of the other par-5 hole, No. 15, despite

hitting his second shot just over the green. His chip down the

ridge checked up short, and his birdie putt caught a tiny spike

mark and skidded off line.

Mickelson made his birdie for a three-stroke lead with three

holes left. Westwood bounced back with a 6-foot birdie at 17 to put

some pressure on Mickelson, but Lefty rolled in his par-saving putt

to take a two-stroke lead to the final hole. That allowed him to

hit a nice, safe 3-wood off the tee, and when his second shot

nuzzled up 8 feet from the hole, Westwood was done.

The Englishman settled for par. Mickelson rolled in the

birdie.

“I shot a 71, which at the end of the day is not a terrible

score around Augusta when you’re in the lead,” Westwood said.

“Phil shot 67, which generally wins major championships when

people are (in the lead) or thereabouts going into the last round.

He hit good shots when he needed to around the back nine.

“I think Phil won that one fair and square.”

Westwood can’t wait to get to the next major: the U.S. Open at

Pebble Beach in June.

“If you sat me down at the start of the year and asked me to

rate which ones suit me, I would probably put the Masters last,”

he said. “To finish second is obviously a massive boost for the

rest of the year. I’ve just got to keep doing the things I’m doing.

I think my short game can still improve, even though it’s a lot

better.”

He noted how well Mickelson played around the greens, especially

at the ninth and 10th holes to save par after wild tee shots.

“It was master class from Phil out there,” Westwood said.

“That’s the sort of standard you’ve got to be up to.”

In the scoring hut behind the 18th green, Mickelson delivered

those words of encouragement to his playing partner.

“He’d been that man who kept knocking on the door, finishing

second and third and wondering if it ever does,” Westwood said.

“Suddenly it does, and winning majors becomes easier in your own

mind. He said I’ve been playing some of the best golf of anybody

out there recently, and just keep plugging away and eventually it

will happen.”